Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Societal Fixed Points

The extend to which one can construct a model for human society is a matter of dispute. Among the most common arguments why it might not be possible to build a testable model of the behavior of large groups of humans is that the elements of this model are conscious and self-aware and in contrast to, say, electrons, able to react to the proposed model. In the social sciences, this feedback into the system is called reflexivity.

There are many examples for this feedback indeed spoiling the predictions of a model. One of the best known is maybe the experiment conducted at Hawthorne Works from 1924 to 1932, where it was studied (among other things) how monetary incentives affect workers' productivity. Surprisingly, the productivity decreased. It has been suspected that this happened because the workers had heard of the study and were afraid an increase in their productivity would later result in lay-offs or a lowering of the base rate. Another example is Nobel-prize winners or other experts and authorities commenting on the economy. It is well known that consumer behavior is influenced by whether the outlook is pessimistic or optimistic, though in this case it's of course more difficult to identify the causes.

In any case, the argument that feedback necessarily spoils any model and thus such efforts are in vain has never made much sense to me. While this may be for some models, there's no reason a model can't remain unmodified under the feedback or that the feedback must be such to necessarily spoil the accuracy of the model. Take the previous example about a prediction affecting consumer behavior. If it's an optimistic outlook it (ideally) causes people to spend more. This doesn't spoil the prediction. On the contrary: it may turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or take the model of supply and demand. Most people know it, yet they don't go and buy the most expensive crap just to prove economists wrong. And why is that? Because they have no reason to. Instead, they believe everything is working in their favor as long as they continue to do what the model says they'll do anyway.

This of course lead me to wonder if there's fixed points in the set of models. There is arguably a trivial fixed point. That's the one when nobody knows of a model or nobody believes it, thus there's no feedback. But one could say it's not an attractive fixed point in the sense that it's unstable: The more successful a model is the more people will know of it and believe it. So, I'm posing the question to you: is there an attractive fixed-point? Because if there is one, that might be where we're going.

64 comments:

Arun said...

Societies that make greed and fear legitimate approach a stable fixed point, which is however, not very attractive :)

Uncle Al said...

Social theory is strange attractors and sudden orbital transitions, not discrete solutions to continuous functions. Society is about predators and prey and ramp-ups to violent oscillations.

People are sheep. Herds desire punitive authority plus (perceived) rewards for compliance. When swine vote, the man with the slop bucket is always elected swineherd no matter how much slaughtering he does. Slaughter is the plural of laughter, but the other way. Given slaughter absent rewards, the herd stampedes.

Consider Stephen Wolfram's rule numbers 22, 30, 90, 105, 110, 126, 150, 162... then class 4. Also pp. 266ff, "Special Initial Conditions;" Wolfram, S., A New Kind of Science, 2002.

How is that to be modeled, local samples allowing global prediction? Such models must fail. Either society flows on its own nickel or central authority clamps down tight. Everything in-between leaks blood.

Plato said...

William Thomas (1923, 1928) as the Thomas theorem: that 'the situations that men define as true, become true for them.'Reflexivity (social theory)

I think visually, in a way one might see, such subjective vocalizations of material in the way society live with prospective idealizations as they are put before them. An ideal, is different then the idea. So where does the idea come from? Some reject the platonic forms of conceptualizations but they are put before us as we all dig from the same pool?

The truth of the matter for me is that historically "without being told" this is a matter for what is put before all whether they are conscious of it or not. What you sow, you reap. "You" provide access for expression?

Is it the awareness we are after in the basis of reality forming apparatus that might signal a deeper understanding of the currents that run through societies in the times, rise from a deep location as to set the course for further mass dealings and outcome?

So awareness set the course for a liberation of a kind as to new forming parameters that set the next phase for the reflective act of the social system to become a new generation of liberators from the constraint's of it's past?

I am trying operate within the context of the way the post is formed.

Still thinking.

Best,

Steven Colyer said...

Bee asks:
Is there an attractive fixed point?

Yes, but it moves, as I explain:

Social theory, i.e., Sociology, has a goal, and that is to make the theory of Issac Asimov's fictional hero Hari Seldon's: Psychohistory, come true.

Alas, we are but babes in the woods on all fronts.

Agreed with Al that strange attractors are both the definition and the goal; disagreed that we are sheep. Well, most of us are, but there be leaders every now and then. And every now and then the Ultimate Murphy: The Mule.

As far as your contention regarding feedback, Bee, it makes more of a difference the smaller the population, IMO. For example, feedback between you and Stefan ("Stefan, take out the garbage, please") works wonders, feedback of a leader to their nation breeds mixed results.

This is why I think when Asimov wrote, to perfectly predict the direction and the future of society, you need populations the sizes of planets, but even then, enter the Mule*. I'm ... not sure you need that many, but with 7,000,000,000 data points on the planet, who knows?

* - Or someone with tiger blood and Adonis genes who lives with goddesses old enough to be his daughters watching over his twins, if you get the reference. ;-?

Don Foster said...

What a nice excursion into potentially swampy terrain.
Can one say that, as a general principle, there is no feedback without some distinguishable fixed point, some referential “structure” that actively plays a part in the dynamics of recursion? This is perhaps not quite your meaning of “fixed point”, but wait a tick.
In biology this structure would be the gene, in society perhaps the notion of “meme” would be a useful analog.
Wiki is the reference, but basically a meme is a belief that can propagate within a population, become dominant or expire, ultimately according to some larger criteria of utility, i.e. does it get feedback by furthering the individual or society as a whole. Simply said, measured in Calories, does it work? (Of course I guess one could have a belief in geocentric cosmology and still use a GPS, not so for the larger society)
Advertising and propaganda can tug our memes this way and that, but finally they rest on the success of the product or the politics.
Between gene and meme are the structures of neural networks that encode our personal laws of physics and enable us to move in the multidimensional terrain of modern life. Here there is hopefully no game-over offence in getting it wrong as long as you learn to get it right.
As to your question of whether there an attractive fixed point, I would say yes. The fixed point is to be able to move your fixed point, to be able to continually adapt to a changing circumstance. While society and indeed our own neural networks put constraints on the adaptation of belief, it must in the long term be the norm.

Plato said...

So should we react to the commentators as well?:)

We are building perspective and some think caught in the past "nothing" can ever change? This is a dominant position in perspective as to how such ideas are expressed, so it answers too, providing for new growth by recognizing the pool from which we all draw.

Of course Lee( nothing personal just pointing out a localization of perspective) calls this "outside of time" and has a perspective about it. Still, his science colleagues occupy some of these beliefs. So Lee leans away from because of those beliefs( his polarization) and some of the theoretical situations his science colleagues espouse?

Some think that they remove themself from such liberation because they have identified the centralization of the "view point(fixed point)" while it can issue from a central location(symmetry and away from in counterpoint)? It adds up that you realize that is a whole lot of people who form the basis of the society in which they live in opposition to the dynamical functional forms of that society, but, it is what makes it go "round and round?":)You reached a plateau in oscillatory relations. What kick starts "the next generation?"

Plato said...

Conclusion:The state of mind of the observer plays a crucial role in the perception of time.Einstein

While this is a highly subjective statement it is true for those caught within it's grips "as an observer and caught in the function of time?

Change your thoughts and you change your world.
Norman Vincent Peale


If you realize "you are connected" how much more so is the realization that we can be free from such "subjective complaints of time going on forever?":)

"...underwriting the form languages of ever more domains of mathematics is a set of deep patterns which not only offer access to a kind of ideality that Plato claimed to see the universe as created with in the Timaeus; more than this, the realm of Platonic forms is itself subsumed in this new set of design elements-- and their most general instances are not the regular solids, but crystallographic reflection groups. You know, those things the non-professionals call . . . kaleidoscopes! * (In the next exciting episode, we'll see how Derrida claims mathematics is the key to freeing us from 'logocentrism'-- then ask him why, then, he jettisoned the deepest structures of mathematical patterning just to make his name...)

* H. S. M. Coxeter, Regular Polytopes (New York: Dover, 1973) is the great classic text by a great creative force in this beautiful area of geometry (A polytope is an n-dimensional analog of a polygon or polyhedron. Chapter V of this book is entitled 'The Kaleidoscope'....)"


Just pointing out an option for the understanding of the expression of ideas in such a state?

Eric said...

Probably the place to study the purest form of fixed points is the study of aggregates of individual products. This would be things like stock market indexes. When you study groups of individual entities you can somewhat divorce any intrinsic worth of an individual company or product from the general crowd sentiment. Presumably crappy companies should not have stock prices that go up if the prevailing sentiment is that they are crappy. The same is true for good companies in reverse. But when all companies are taken together as an index the reverse is true on days when the market is hugely up or down respectively.

This principle works beyond the financial industry. People infect each other with particular sentiments. Those crowd sentiments can be viewed as an individual entity that shines or rains on the parade of individual ideas, products, or theories. The underlying fundamental value is lost in the day to day wash of sentiment produced by the crowd. Only in hindsight is the true value of the most important things seen. However, when crowd sentiment is storming at it's greatest even some things that are sacred are questioned by the weak among us, who are easily swayed.

For example, after 9-11 the USA engaged in widespread torture, even kidnaping a German citizen of Arab descent, and torturing him in the name of expediency. In general at least half of the population is never able to withstand these storms of crowd sentiment and give in to the most vile acts.

Plato said...

Does the America's have it's own Libya?:) Is this what you mean. In no way does this comment imply relations by names. Just trying to organize my thoughts in the context of your post.

Demonstrators are trying to pressure Republican Gov. Scott Walker to abandon a measure that would end collective bargaining rights for nearly all of Wisconsin's public workers.-AFL-CIO works to keep Wisconsin protests going Bold added by me for emphasis

Bee:how monetary incentives affect workers' productivity.

John Nash's Equilibrium theory?

So let's say there is a negotiation process that can take place. If you can remove one side of the negotiating process(equation), you then can remove the process of negotiation?

It allowed Qaddafi to give you an ideal picture of the world according too?

It's a very simple strategy really?

Plato said...
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Plato said...

Strategy, a word of military origin, refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. In military usage strategy is distinct from tactics, which are concerned with the conduct of an engagement, while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked. How a battle is fought is a matter of tactics: the terms and conditions that it is fought on and whether it should be fought at all is a matter of strategy, which is part of the four levels of warfare: political goals or grand strategy, strategy, operations, and tactics. Building on the work of many thinkers on the subject, one can define strategy as "a comprehensive way to try to pursue political ends, including the threat or actual use of force, in a dialectic of wills – there have to be at least two sides to a conflict. These sides interact, and thus a Strategy will rarely be successful if it shows no adaptability."

Plato said...
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Eric said...

Plato, I'm probably wrong, and if I am forgive me, but you are not saying that torture has anything to do with strategy are you? Perhaps your post had nothing to do with my previous post but I just want to clarify.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

There is an old saying in economics, that one must have at least three points to determine a straight line. The fact is when dealing with a chaotic system the problem is not so much with finding points, yet defining what a straight line is. This is further complicated if the system presents to be random, as not only is what is straight being problematic, but also the ordering of the points being accessed.

Despite all the difficulties this poses, the greatest challenge with any model is first to determine the destination before setting a course, which I suspect is what you refer to as the point of attraction. So should that be life, liberty and the freedom to pursue personal happiness or rather living and acting in such a way to assure reaching Valhalla; even if the journey be trying at times or entirely so for that matter. That is the former defines not a destination, yet rather a state, while the latter not so much an initial state, yet a destination; where it then might be realized.

The trouble being is for most it’s perceived that if they wish to find themselves in the state, it must be largely self determined, while for many who favour the destination it must be mostly predetermined. That is it presents as the old dilemma, as not being able to have your cake and able to eat it to.

Of course the solution being that the state lead to the destination and have the destination necessitate the state. In science this would be to have nature seen as being directed by principles, while with people this considered as morals. I find it ironic, that as many of science becomes more convinced the world is not directed by principles, more in the general populous becoming convinced the same should then be true in respect to morals. I would then ask, if there is a correlation to be found here that might have any relevance?

Another way to put it, should humanity be content to being restricted by what’s perceived simplistically as natural or is it able to conceive it might be able to do better. Science suggests that nature ultimately might be the consequence of a initial system being driven to seeking equilibrium, while life (more so if its intelligent) seems to be an attempt, alibi in a limited sense, to deny this eventuality for itself.

The bottom line for me has it appear that arriving at equilibrium doesn’t require we either think or care, while defying it appears to demand that we do. Therefore as I would rather both think and care, which I find to provide and define not only an adequate state of being, yet also a direction. So I propose a model, yet I’m not hopeful it being able to be captured by an equation(s), as it seems to defy things being equal.

Best,

Phil

Steven Colyer said...

....in economics, one must have at least three points to determine a straight line. The fact is when dealing with a chaotic system the problem is not so much with finding points, yet defining what a straight line is.

YEAH, Phil! Right on, man.

So who do we blame for making straight lines curved? For me, I blame Bernhard Riemann. And all we got out of that wacky idea was this crazy General Relativity!

Well, they don't call "economics" the "dismal" science for nothing. I openly question if it deserves the moniker: science. "All other things being equal", my ass. I'll believe in spherical cows jumping over elliptical moons before I believe anything an economist says these days, especially if they provide a graph or chart, 99% of which are disinformation with an agenda behind them. Damn all politics straight to hell.

Hi Eric,

I don't see the point in bringing up Dick Cheney's favorite form of coercion, that is to say: torture, unless the intent is to bash America. Believe me, we bash each other enough over here. But go ahead, pile it on, it amuses us.

"We are not amused" ... Queen Elizabeth II

Well YOU may not be Queenie, but we are.

Don Foster said...

I don’t seem to have a visceral grasp of the potency of a mathematical “fixed point”. Seems I took the term and ran my own way with it.

Fixed in my mind was the experience of a couple of days past when I was looking down on the waters of the inner Aransas Bay at low ebb. There were no organized ripples, just a kaleidoscopic (Plato) morphing of soft, surface facets at an approximate tempo of .3 Hz.

Also in my field of vision was the dark stub of an old piling, anomalously fixed in the fluid field. Here there arose little ripples in the interplay.

I was left to wonder just how “fixedness” arises from a quintessentially fluid quantum substrate.

I do believe that some germ of “fixedness” is a required ingredient in the emergence of what we call feedback, but then again, my understandings tend to be soft edged.

Don Foster said...

Steven, I suppose I should just let it be, off topic and all, but I for one did not take offense at Eric’s exemplar of the morality of torture being subject to the shifting compass of public opinion, nor did I read it as America bashing. Better to endure the painful memory of that bit of history than forget it. Best.

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Bee,

since feedback is implemented by humans and not a result of the system, it is somehow not controllable. This means, if one implements a feedback on a society system one spoils full determinism and thus attractors are wrong.

Best, Kay

Uncle Al said...

Like SUSY and quantum gravitation, economics' jargon is arcane, its maths are rigorous, and its models are real world irrelevant at scale. Economics only describes society in hindsight - or economists would successfully play financial markets.

The economics of bananas: Erect a theoretical model to facilitate maximum velocity convergence of enigmatic circulation. This delimits extensive marginalization of hyperbolic discounting while maintaining non-parametric micro-political foundations in a reduced-form model. Bananas may enjoy a dead cat bounce given their Herfindahl-Hirschman index, although principal agent theory demands preference falsification (caeteris paribus).

Asset aggregate demand will crowd out any adverse selection floating exchange rate system threatening frictional unemployment of economists. When asymmetrical information meets Washington's cost-shifting regulatory capture, it is monopsony all the way down. Bananas thus require a $billion Federal bailout to Save America from a broken window inlaw-effected fallacy.

Dedicated to economist Allan Mandelstamm ("Handsome Al" Mandelschlecht), who didn't take crap from anyone - Michigan State to Virginia Tech,

http://fbox.vt.edu/faculty/aaup/14-spring99.pdf
Document p. 10ff

Plato said...
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Plato said...

Eric,

The post strategy sitting by itself does not explain anything without seeing the post before it.

Best,

Michael Gogins said...

I'm no expert, but as I seem to recall economists use the Banach fixed point theorem in studying markets, and there would be no stable prices in them without it.

Eric said...

Steven, what I said about how we acted after 9-11 was not political nor was it off topic. Prsumably the topic was fixed points in society. Fixed points in this context refers to things that are stable and unmoving. There is no point in whitewashing it. What we thought was a fixed point in our principles was not for a short time. I don't think it is bashing America since it was both very relevant to the discussion and also true. This isn't to say other countries haven't done more and worse in the past. However I don't live in those countries. And since I don't want to move that means trying to make my country aware of it's transgressions. If that bothers you, I can't help you.

Robert L. Oldershaw said...

In his book "The Best of All Possible Worlds", which has both literary/artistic and scientific excellence (very rare combo), Ivar Ekeland discusses these issues in a sophisticated and entertaining manner.

He begins by explaining the development of nonlinear dynamical systems theory and deterministic chaos in chapters 1-6.

Then in chapters 7-10 he demonstrates how the same principles learned in physics apply to social behavior and place limitations on optimization startegies.

One comes away with a new understanding of how the real world works, and how our idealizations have misled us.

This book is a strange attractor that is well worth getting drawn into.

RLO

Michael F. Martin said...

Such a well-posed question. Schelling gave us an answer, for which he won a Nobel:

http://brokensymmetry.typepad.com/broken_symmetry/2008/06/thomas-schellin.html

Aren't "Schelling points" examples of fixed points -- albeit not at the scale you have in mind?

Michael F. Martin said...

Here's a post I did along similar lines a few years ago:

http://brokensymmetry.typepad.com/broken_symmetry/2008/07/focal-points-co.html

Embarrassingly diffuse on review now, but whatever. We have the data to do better demographics now, why not use it?

Steven Colyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Colyer said...

Don Foster wrote:
Steven, I suppose I should just let it be, off topic and all, but I for one did not take offense at Eric’s exemplar of the morality of torture being subject to the shifting compass of public opinion, nor did I read it as America bashing. Better to endure the painful memory of that bit of history than forget it. Best.

Best to you too man, because other than Yosemite Valley in Cali or the
western side of Kauai the garden island of Hawaii, or San Diego or Santa Rosa in Sonoma Co., Cali, I did an intense study of America's 50 States in the 5th grade (1966), on my own, and pretty much came came to the conclusion that where YOU live, Colorado, is the best place to be here in the old US of A, so cool for you man, you're in a righteous place, and my envious, brah.

Next on the list though is where I live, NJ, and I'll take it. 30 miles from Princeton, and 30 miles from the greatest city on Earth, which is NYC. I'm good.

Getting to your point, we are both Americans, and therefore the whole modus operandi is that we argue with each other all the time. That is what I feel, and think, makes us great (it used to annoy me, but ultimately I decided to stop fighting reality and let the Wookie win, so to speak). We have the right to disagree, and we exercise it. A lot.

So I stand by my opinion of what I said to Eric, but I respect YOU sir for having another take on it. I'll meet you halfway ... I'll think about what you said.

But we live in the age of blogging and therefore opinions, Don. Until and unless you or Eric get and/or establish your own blogs, and develop in more detail the opinions you both righteously have the right to have, I can't dig on your thoughts man any deeper than what you actually write..

I mean, what's stopping either of you, man? My point is agreed or disagreed, you both have fine minds, and i wish to discuss further, is all I'm saying, although not necessarily here.

Best, and ... Peace. It's what John Lennon would have wanted.

And did, in his brief 40 years on Earth when he woke us up, more than anyone.

Hi Eric,

Chill, brah, I wrote my response to Don before reading your last one (simultaneous posting, heh). I will take your last post under consideration too, thanks man.

Plato said...
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Plato said...

Game theory was the correct association in my view, as well as, an understanding of the psychology.

Inevitably, the theory of focal points has pushed many economists and political scientists to undertake a more serious study of psychology. If theories of strategy are inherently empirical afterall, then cognitive and behavioral limits must be important in determining focal points.Bounded Rationality or Broken Symmetry? Revisiting Schelling.

Wonderful:)Disagree with the idea of symmetry used in relatin to rationality. You write, "in other words, symmetry is not a necessary condition to rationality.

Observations of underlying structures arise from a very chaotic beginning, but hold the the idea that such emergence is contained architecturally within it?

How can "anything" arise from nothing even if it is not observable to you?

Don Foster:Fixed in my mind was the experience of a couple of days past when I was looking down on the waters of the inner Aransas Bay at low ebb. There were no organized ripples, just a kaleidoscopic (Plato) morphing of soft, surface facets at an approximate tempo of .3 Hz.


It's as if Coxeter was looking himself through your eyes :) but using the words quoted from him above.

A straight line would be difficult to follow, because it is so spread out looking at the fields of uncertainty, yet, the infrastructure is there?

Best,

John Hawks said...

Wonderful topic :)

I think that when we consider primate societies, there are pretty stable dynamics, related to group size, kinship, sex ratio, and energy costs, that arise again and again in distantly related species. Some of these dynamics also emerge in human hunter-gatherers. For example, you tend to see groups of around 25 individuals, they split if the group gets too big, they have stable sexual division of labor, sex-specific status hierarchies, and rituals related to food sharing and resource access, recognition of some kinds of kin and not others.

Those statics emerge repeatedly after perturbations -- a splinter group goes off on its own, manages to grow its population, and ends up with the same kind of interactions. In that sense, I would argue that the set of behaviors that emerges recurrently may be an attractor.

That is less plausible for very large societies, I think. We don't return to previous states of history, and we can't really know what would happen if we did.

Peter Turchin's work is interesting in this vein. He begins from the simple mathematical logic that oscillations and similar non-linear behaviors have minimally to emerge from second-order differential equations (chapter 1 in Historical Dynamics is very clear on this). Instead of assuming the system is chaotic, he sets out to see whether a system of equations (like a Lotka-Volterra model, for instance) can account for certain historical phenomena. I'm impressed at how far he actually can go toward explaining certain historical cycles using two or three variable.

Bee said...

Hi Steven,

Well, the fixed point pretty much by definition does not move. Unless that is you mean an induced time-dependence of external parameters. (E.g. it might change with the climate or such.) Best,

B.

Bee said...

PS: And Uncle is right of course, we are sheep. Making decisions based on what we see others do is an instinctive behavior that has evolutionary roots and is indeed often beneficial. It's one of the themes Surowiecky discusses in his book.

Bee said...

Hi Don,

I don't find the concept of a 'meme' particularly useful. Ideas or believes don't exist without human society and they are fuzzy and vague notions. I prefer to stick to tangible things like behavior. It's not the believe itself that works or doesn't work, it's the behavior it induces that works or doesn't work well to the end of survival and reproduction. Ideas don't kill.

In any case, yes, the fixed point can be time-dependent if circumstances change, but the question is still what is it characterized by and how far away are we? In your words the question would be how well adapted are we? How far are we limping behind the change in our environment? Will we, with the present procedures, ever catch up, or just become less and less well adapted to a faster and faster changing environment till we fall victim to some irreversible mistake? Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

No, actually I wasn't saying that one has to determine a destination before setting the course. I was asking, basically, where are we going? Consider you have an iteration of the following sort: people's behavior - observation of - formulation of model to explain observation - people learn of model - people's behavior - observation of -... etc etc. The question I'm asking is whether this iteration converges to a point where people learning of the model doesn't change their behavior so there's no need to adapt the model to their changed behavior. Best,

B.

Steven Colyer said...

Science talks about very simple things, and asks hard questions about them. As soon as things become too complex, science can’t deal with them... But it’s a complicated matter: Science studies what’s at the edge of understanding, and what’s at the edge of understanding is usually fairly simple. And it rarely reaches human affairs. Human affairs are way too complicated.
... Noam Chomsky

Normally, I don't quote anarchists.

Bee said...

Hi Kay,

I don't understand what you're saying. Humans, including those proposing the model, are part of the system, so they act back on the system they are part of. In that sense it's a feedback. I don't see why that 'spoils full determinism.' I would argue the system is in principle deterministic, but not in practice. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Michael,

Thanks, interesting! Will look into this. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Robert,

Don't know the book, sounds interesting though. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Steven,

Chomsky seems somewhat confused about the terms complex vs complicated. Best,

B.

Steven Colyer said...

Oh hey Bee, thank you, I'd forgotten where I put that nice analysis of mine. Thank you very much.

But yes, you're right, he does, but then so do most people. Myself included until I thought about it. Basically, the problem is they have the same antonym: simple.

Chomsky is also saying, essentially, give up on the problem, which I believe goes against the problem-solving attitudes of you, Stefan, me, and I'll guess most of your readers, most scientists, and all engineers who love their field.

But the MOST annoying thing about Chomsky's words are ... he might be right.

Too early to tell. Not enough data. Or maybe too many data points to measure, until ...

...we're all inserted with chips. (yikes1)

To reiterate, most people are sheep, not all. Yes there are fixed points, but the fixed points themselves are moving. Astronomy analogy: we obit the sun, the solar system orbits the galaxy. Physics analogy: where are the electrons and at what speed are they moving in the atom, exactly? We don't know. We know probabilities only, so we cannot predict the future. Even if as some think we live in a completely deterministic universe, and the future is as set in stone as the past, we still can't predict it. We're kinda screwed that way.

Phil Warnell said...
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Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Yes I understood what you are saying and suggested that such a point would be difficult if not impossible to determine. That is since each of us perceive the world differently, as to what’s important, particularly when it comes to what satisfies us as finding something being true and how it is we come by such understanding.

So for instance if we where to look to the Myers-Briggs (Jung inspired) physiological spectrum , among the sixteen types we find the most prevalent one quarter of them being (ESTJ, ESTP, ESFJ, ESFP) comprise 47% of the total population, while the least prevalent quarter (INTJ, INTP, INFJ, INFP) make up only 7%. It could be argued that the former group reaps the benefits of the latter, to exploit them or one could say the latter depends on the former to facilitate the realization of what they discover and envision.

That’s to say it takes many types to make a world, so my first question to have answered is why this unbalance and then ask if this balance where changed if we would be all better served. That’s to say I agree it’s more important to discover what we are (state) before we decide what forms to be our (destination) destiny; yet we should be less looking out to find the answer and more looking in.

Best,

Phil

Sorry for the correction yet I noticed I made and error when discovering I'd broken the symmetry which was evident:-)

Don Foster said...

“I don't find the concept of a 'meme' particularly useful. Ideas or believes don't exist without human society and they are fuzzy and vague notions. I prefer to stick to tangible things like behavior.”

Thanks Bee, just to loft the ball back to your side of the net, I note that Gregor Mendel, perforce, dealt with certain readily observable plant characteristics and, while he did manage to determine some laws of genetics, we now have learned that the actual pivot point for these characteristics is the gene.
Proponents of memetics would argue that there is a similar relationship between observable human behavior and the meme. On your side, Wiki notes that: criticism from a variety of fronts has challenged the notion that scholarship can examine memes empirically. Perhaps, as was the case with Mendel, this is simply a temporary limitation of our science.

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Bee,

surely Humans are reacting but the models, that are build use, may be it is too simple, feedbacks, that are not covering truth. You're right, that theories have attractors and are so deterministic but in practice there're not. That's what I wanted to say. I used not enough words to say it; a common mistake of mine.

Best, Kay

Greg Sivco said...
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Eric said...

I find the subject fascinating but I find the general approach everyone has taken very convoluted and overly timid. Certainly there is feedback in systems but it does not bring social systems of humans to a stable point. This seems to be so obvious as to beg the question.

Whenever you you investigate the truth of a hypothesis or conjecture you look for examples that negate the supposition. Generally this will involve examples taken in real life, that while extreme, are well documented and go against the supposition. In this case the most extreme examples involve physical violence between human beings on large scales. If feedback worked the way it should in society these situations should never occur. But they occur again and again where a spirit of aggressive indignation can infect a whole people against the "other".

Bee, I think you must have been thinking about this when you posed the question. How could you not.

Plato said...

Does personality signs reach all levels of society? It would seem most certainly so?

Power by definition is a strange term when considering it's usage considering the "focused group," would find means in order to consolidate that power as a "fixed point" in society?

The term may be political like (Republican or Democrat) then becomes rote by opinion? Sheople, then there after?:)

In what "other parts of society" is this so? Complacency, breeds Sheople, and being discriminatory about fixed points, apply to many situations, not just with the struggle of one's own personality?

Fixed points were once focus points concertized in the field of a person's own vision, regardless of plumber, carpenter, or electrician? Only recognition of erroneous belief and correct information and "not characterization" can wipe out fixations helping one to see differently?

Best,

Plato said...

John hawks:That is less plausible for very large societies, I think. We don't return to previous states of history, and we can't really know what would happen if we did.

Yet it can be a determinant factor historically when one chooses how to react to the economy "by which stimulus?"

Best,

Bee said...

Hi Eric,

Yes, I was considering the possibility that there's no attractive fixed point in case that's what you mean. For the reasons mentioned in the post though, I believe that they do exist. I don't see why necessarily every model of human behavior must result in large numbers of people trying to behave differently than the model assumes. Best,

B.

Steven Colyer said...

Again, agreed Bee they exist, but again the points move around, such that just when you think you've nailed them, they've shifted.

I compare it to the difference between the first and second derivatives in calculus. You can learn much by studying velocity say, but much more by studying acceleration. Further bad analogies available upon request.

Two fields to call attention to: "The Science of Human Behavior", which is Psychology, and Social Anthropology. 60 years ago these fields had virtually zero mathematics. Today? Aye chi wawa, what paradigm shifts! Even Social Anthro, perhaps the youngest of Sciences, uses linear algebra now! I remember when a 2x2 matrix was a big deal with them. Now, the work of Nash and von Neumann coupled with computers have changed everything. They're still young.

Well, I think we've beaten this horse to death. Time to move on to say, Stefan's views on Heavy ion collisions at the LHC, or something.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Steven,

“Well, I think we've beaten this horse to death. Time to move on...”

The problem with this being is it’s the horse we are all betting on; now to think of it perhaps this is the fixed point that doesn’t move.

“When all else fails
We can whip the horse's eyes
And make them sleep
And cry”


-Jim Morrison, "Soft Parade", The Doors

Best,

Phil

Don Foster said...

“Ideas don't kill.” – An event on the world line of a theoretical physicist.

“A good sentence can tether a man for a thousand years” -- Spoken by the sympathetic Bedouin character in a Hollywood movie.

Bee, I was going to let your statement lay there, but it seemed to be intentionally provocative. Is it the rhetorical equivalent of the National Rifle Association’s tag line, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”?

Steven Colyer said...

On the third hand, Don, bullets kill people, unless you beat someone senseless with the blunt end of a firearm ala Wyatt Earp. ;-)

Bee said...

Hi Don,

It wasn't intentionally provocative. I was just trying to make a point. Talking about ideas adds unnecessary baggage that's not relevant to the outcome. What matters is what people eventually do. An example: I read this story about a woman who had this idea that she could live from water and sunshine. So she sat down and tried to do exactly that. Unsurprisingly, she died from starvation. Now the relevant connection is that stopping to eat is not beneficial for survival. What 'idea' drove somebody to do this doesn't play any role for the question of survival. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...
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Phil Warnell said...
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Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

The Blogger gods got me again:-)

Best,

Phil

Phil Warnell said...
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Phil Warnell said...
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Zephir said...

/*.. is there an attractive fixed-point..*/
Societal fixed point is the same, like the fixed point in physics: it's the emergent geometry known as an aether model. With increasing distance/scope the interactions of physical objects increase their dimensionality, while the dimensionality of individual objects decreases, until they change into scalar particles. In large social system the subjective motivations of individual subject compensate mutually according the rule "which is good for you isn't good for me", so that only the behavior of random Boltzmann gas remains.

Don Foster said...

Yes, but he's taking medication for that.

Bee said...

Hi John,

Interesting observation about the recurrent group structure. Yes, we don't return to previous states of history, time of arrow and all. But that's more parameters than I think a useful model will ever have. I don't think we'll ever be able to actually model history. I'm thinking more of general questions like is there a system of governance or we'll be returning to and if so, which one and under which circumstances (external parameters)? Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Kay,

Well, even if the model is in practice not deterministic, you might be able to identify a fixed point. You wouldn't know then which way you're getting there, but still know that you'd be getting there. Best,

B.